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Lifestyle changes can be helpful in a variety of important ways:
Smoking is a known risk factor for many cancers. Although you may have already been diagnosed with cancer, it’s not too late to stop smoking. When you quit smoking, you reduce your risk of its many associated medical complications, which should improve your chances of withstanding the physical stresses of cancer and treatment. Also, since the immune system of smokers is generally less effective than nonsmokers, by quitting you may be adding your immune system’s ability to join in the battle against cancer.
Ask your doctor about programs to help you stop smoking, such as group support, hypnosis, and alternative nicotine delivery systems.
To decrease your risk of infection, avoid exposure to bacteria and viruses:
Eating a healthful diet may help you avoid other medical conditions linked to poor nutrition. Because cancer itself and some cancer treatment may have a dulling effect on your appetite, it’s important that you make the most of the calories you do take in. Strongly consider consulting a registered dietitian (RD) to help you learn more about the best kinds of foods for you to eat and how to eat other, less healthful foods in moderation. (Your doctor can refer you to an RD.) Avoid making drastic changes in your diet based on the latest fad diet.
If you have not been exercising regularly, check with your doctor to determine a safe exercise program under your current circumstances. Exercise has many benefits that may help you withstand the physical and emotional stresses of cancer and cancer treatment:
You may consider consulting a personal trainer to help you set exercise goals and to safely follow through on initiating an exercise program. While incorporating exercise, be sure to balance rest and activities to prevent becoming too tired.
The treatments for cancer can add to the fatigue you already feel from fighting cancer. In fact, fatigue is the most frequently experienced symptom of cancer and cancer treatments. The fatigue you feel can range from "just feeling tired" to complete and utter exhaustion. Wherever in this range you fall, you may find your fatigue quite distressing and affecting your quality of life.
It is important to allow your body time to rest. This will help your body have the strength to heal itself. Studies have shown a relationship between fatigue and an increased morbidity of cancer and cancer treatments as a result of fatigue's adverse effect on appetite, diminished quality of life, and loss of hope.
To help you avoid getting overtired, try not to do too much. Prioritize the things you need to do, and focus on the most important ones. Also, allow others to help you with daily chores, shopping, and preparing meals. Plan times throughout the day when you can rest.
The diagnosis of cancer is a life-defining event that is difficult to handle for anyone. Facing the uncertainty of a serious disease, feeling anxious about how you will feel during treatment, and worrying about the impact of both the diagnosis and treatment can take a devastating toll that no one should have to tackle on their own. Give yourself permission to call on any helpful resources, including the following:
People who allow themselves to seek help while they are recovering from cancer can often maintain better emotional equilibrium, which will help them face the challenges of cancer and its treatment.
Campell’s Urology. 8th ed. New York: Elsevier Science; 2002: 2732-2765.
Cecil Textbook of Medicine. Philadelphia, PA: WB Saunders Company; 2002: 633-634.
Conn’s Current Therapy. 54th ed. Philadelphia, PA: WB Saunders Company; 2002: 720-721.
Last reviewed September 2016 by Mohei Abouzied, MD, FACP
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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